Monday, January 25, 2010
Unemployment Diary - Domesticated
When I lost my job in December, I had a few sleepless nights where I worried and worried hard about the money. Now we've almost reached that point where you think "Well, hell, what else can go wrong?" Of course, the glass half empty side of my brain warns against that kind of thinking. Ask and ye shall receive the answer. And there's always an answer.
But the work? I don't miss it. I'm finding what I do now to be so much more rewarding. I realize now that even though I'd been in my line of work for nearly twenty years, I've never really felt it defined me. Except for the martyr aspect. I was most adept at working my butt off only to give away the credit to some volunteer. In that way, motherhood is similar, I'm afraid. At least the way I practice it.
Nevertheless, it took me no time to adjust to not having a long commute or going to an office and pretending to be a grown up, all serious and stuff. And panty hose? Yeah. No.
Sure I miss the drives with MathMan, but we've instituted Sunday Morning Bed Ins where we hang out, watch DVDS, have breakfast and lunch in bed, read and just laze about, enjoying each other's company immensely. Sometime around 11am, we even unlock the bedroom door so the kids can join us as we do nothing much at all. At first, they were all "Aren't you guys ever going to get out of bed?" And now they're getting use to it. "Just don't think about the wild monkey sex your parents have on the bed and you'll be fine," we tell them. Works like a charm.
(Note: Not leaving the house and not being online is a great way to NOT spend money.)
Even now, as I wait for the unemployment insurance to kick in, I'm Fretty McWorry about money, but this is not a new hobby. Being unemployed has only exacerbated the situation.
I keep reminding myself that it is all in how you look at things, right? So I lost my job. Now I have time to write. And housework is less of a hassle when I'm not cramming it into the weekends and evenings. I realized sometime during week 2 of unemployment that I don't mind doing housework as long as I don't have an audience. It's when other people are sitting around on their firm teen asses while I work that I get petulant. As it should be. But leave me alone and I'm knocking Mr. Clean and the Tidy Bowl Man out of my way as I buzz around getting things done.
And the cats don't mind my rhetorical snark such as "Who left this half a brownie on the mantel?" or "Why is there a sock on the ceiling fan?" They simply yawn, stretch and find another patch of sunlight in which to sit and observe the woman who insists on talking to them in that high voice.
And don't let this get around because I have a reputation to maintain, but I dig that I'm here for the kids more than I could be before. And I like them. Mostly. See? It's not all bad.
Have I mentioned our carbon footprint? It's shrinking! We save gas on that long commute. So the dryer broke? Pain in the ass, right? Well, sure, but now we're saving money and using less energy by not running a dryer. I do the laundry, I hang it to dry in the basement, and then iron it to soften it up. Even the socks. Trust me, it works and it's incredibly meditative, this ironing thing. I mostly do it while watching old movies, so what's not to love? Chloe did wonder aloud at the need for ironing boxers and panties until I made her do the feel test. That shut her up pretty quickly. Or she was simply indulging me so that I wouldn't force her to touch Nate's boxers. Either way, she concurred.
While I'm ironing (no apron required), my favorite old movies to watch are from the 1930s. I see the portrayals of the Great Depression and think "we don't have it that bad" and I'm fine. We're fine. We still have a roof over our heads and meals on the table. Real meals for a change. We eat at home almost exclusively now. Turns out, I'm a pretty good cook. It's much easier to make a meal when you're not tired from being at the office all day and then driving for freaking ever to get home. You should see what I can do with some ground roadkill and bread crumbs.
We're economizing any way we can. We already gave up a car. We're thinking about getting rid of the satellite t.v., but I'm dragging my feet. I must confirm that we can get Turner Classic Movies on the basic package. Everyone is brownbagging it these days. We go to the library for our books, DVDS and CDs.
Meanwhile, I make other efforts, too. I'm fattening up the little finches at the feeder in case we run out of cat food. I go around the house and unplug unused electronics and switch off lights, sometimes even when someone is in the room. "Come on, you can pee in the dark. It's not like you're reading..." has become one of my oft-repeated phrases along with "Turn off that light when you leave the room" and "Nope, sorry, no money for that."
Even the little life hiccups aren't bad. Today, Nate had a fever and needed to come home from school. I walked over to get him and we walked back home together, chatting all the way. Now had the weather been like it was yesterday, all rainy and gray, this would be an entirely different blog post, but the skies are blue and the sun is bright and even the strong winds weren't enough to make me whine about the walk through the subdivision, across the covered bridge and through the park to reach the school. It was quite nice and I can count it as additional exercise. Bonus!
My unemployment insurance should kick in shortly and that will be most welcome. It will pay for gas, groceries and rent. Those money-grubbing credit cards that get their payments each month via the Chapter 13 bankruptcy might have to work with us on reducing our burden. I'm not holding my breath. I'm learning to cross bridges when I come to them, you know?
For now, I'm looking for a job, but for each resume I send out, I'm torn between knowing I need the job and not being too thrilled about going back to the grind.
It's been nice, this idea that I can keep the house and be a mother and write and that's enough. Of course, that it's not. But still. I do not now nor have I ever needed a job outside the home to feel fulfilled or to keep boredom at bay. I can't even imagine being bored anymore. I still don't have enough hours in the the day to do everything I want to do.
I'm reminded of my friend Bonnie Flowers once again. We were sitting at our desks in the bullpen we occupied at the AARP office in Chicago and the subject of the two income trap came up. We were a split group of two wage earner homes and single parent homes. None of us hated the idea of being able to work, but there was plenty of grousing about the need for all of us to be working.
"I wish I had a time machine," Bonnie said. "I'd go find that first woman who thought her husband was going to the office every day to have a party and decided that she wanted to work, too, and I'd smack her. Hard."
A bit hyperbolic, to be sure, but she definitely had a point.....I don't want to take away anyone's right or desire to work outside the home, but it would be nice to not feel like we're going to drown if I don't find full time work. Perhaps it's time for the pendulum to swing back a bit. Or more accurately, maybe it already has.